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Two Floridians in the hunt for Olympic volleyball medals

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Dozens of Floridians are on their way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics. A significant portion of those men and women are swimmers, divers and track and field athletes representing multiple countries.

One Florida State graduate has a chance to take home a medal in a different sport. Nick Lucena will compete in beach volleyball along with partner Phil Dalhausser, a graduate of Central Florida, for a gold medal in a sport where American women traditionally earn more headlines.

While the two men are not well known outside of those who closely follow the sport, two American women became household names. Misty May-Treanor and Kari Walsh Jennings had won three consecutive gold medals from 2004-12 before May-Treanor retired. Walsh Jennings, who will turn 38 during the Olympics, is back for another try with a new partner.

Lucena and Dalhausser are ranked number three in the world heading into the Olympics. In their final event three weeks ago, they earned the Silver Medal at the Gstaad Major in Switzerland.

Lucena, a native of Davie, is making his first appearance in the Olympics. Dalhausser, who is from Ormond Beach, is making his third.

“It’s amazing to qualify for the Olympics, and it always has been a huge goal of mine,” Lucena told “There is nothing better than playing with ‘USA’ on your back. However, our ultimate goal is and compete for a medal.”

After earning his degree in sports management from FSU, Lucena embarked on a pro career. He teamed with Dalhausser early on, but the two parted in 2005. They reunited in 2015.

They have won two tournaments together since renewing their partnership. Earlier this year they won the international volleyball federation’s (FIVB) Hamburg Major Series and the Association of Volleyball Professionals Manhattan Beach Open in 2015.

Both men are married to spouses who understand the exhilaration and the hard work involved in becoming good beach volleyball players.

Lucena is married to Brooke Niles, the coach of the Florida State women’s beach volleyball team. Dalhausser’s wife is Jennifer Corral, a professional beach volleyball player.

Dalhausser and Lucena open play in Pool C on Sunday, August 7 against a team from Tunisia. Other members of the pool are teams from Italy and Mexico.

The other American team consisting of Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson are ranked fifth in the world and will be playing in Pool F beginning August 6.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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